Trinity at Cana

Marriage_in_Cana_Giotto

According to St. Faustus of Riez, the wedding we read about at Sunday Mass symbolizes “the joyful marriage of man’s salvation, a marriage celebrated by confessing the Holy Trinity.” [Spanish]

Le’ts meditate a little bit on the most basic foundations of the Catholic and Christian faith. We read, about Jesus at the wedding: “His disciples began to believe in Him.” We want to follow Christ as disciples, too. So what exactly does a Christian disciple believe?

We believe in: God. The One, the only. Source and goal of all things. All-knowing, all-good, all-powerful. Everywhere, and greater than everything. Both more intimate and more transcendent than we can imagine. God. The Almighty.

We believe in Him. We acknowledge that to deny His existence seems irrational, considering things like sunsets, vast oceans, people as lovely as Michelle Dockery, not to mention the human soul. Only a fool denies the existence of God. But, by the same token, only a fool claims to know, to understand, to grasp God’s infinitely beautiful and spiritual mind.

When the disciples “began to believe” in Jesus, what exactly did they begin to believe? They did not begin to believe that He had a beard. They knew He had a beard. They did not begin to believe that He could attend weddings. They saw with their own eyes that He attended the wedding in Cana.

Michelle Dockery Lady Mary DowntonWhat they began to believe is: This man, Who turns water into fine wine, is God. He, Jesus, is The One in Whom believers believe. God made the heavens and the earth; He makes the mighty rivers flow. The disciples began to believe: Jesus of Nazareth is the One Who knit us all together in our mothers’ wombs!

This is what we call faith in the Incarnation. We believe not just that God could become man, if He so chose–which of course is true, since God is God and nothing less than omnipotent God. But we believe not only that the Incarnation is theoretically possible; we believe that it has, in fact, happened. Therefore, we make a big fuss at Christmas.

Okay, we done with the theology lesson? Not quite. St. Faustus did not say that the joyful marriage of man’s salvation involves confessing the Incarnation. We begin by believing in the Incarnation. The Word became incarnate for a reason: to reveal the unfathomable secret of God.

When the Lord Jesus came up out of the Jordan water, as we heard about last Sunday at Mass, He did not pat Himself on the head and declare with His own lips: “I am very pleased with myself.”

When He knelt to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not say, “Let this chalice pass from me. My own will be done.”

When He breathed His last on the cross, He did not groan and say, “Into my own hands I commend myself.”

No. When Jesus spoke, the One, eternal God spoke; the infinite and omnipotent spoke. The infinite and omnipotent Son prayed. He prayed to the infinite and omnipotent Father. God the Son has a father. God the Father has a Son.

And when God the Son finished the mission that God the Father had given Him to complete, God the Son sent the pure, glorious spirit of truth into the world. And that pure, omnipresent Spirit is God. He is neither the Father, nor the Son. He is the eternal Spirit of Jesus Christ, anointed by the heavenly Father.

Trinity. The one and only God is tri-une. The disciples began to believe this. We have begun to believe this. And I say “begun” because we will not successfully finish believing in the Trinity until we actually gaze upon this mystery, totally unveiled before our eyes.

Believing in the Trinity is not confusing. This dogma of faith does not make a mess out of rational thinking. Just the opposite. Believing in the Father, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit of Pentecost offers the human race the only real path to a life that makes sense.

Our job is not to understand the mystery. Our job is to share in it. To live in communion with Jesus, loving and serving the Father. We profess our faith in words, to be sure, by reciting the Creed–words that we would rather die than deny.

But the true profession of our faith is our lives. Lives lived–if I might dare to put it this way–lives lived “inside” the Trinity. By His life on earth, Jesus invited us inside the inner life of God. When we see, hear, react, think, judge, and act with Jesus, then we live in the embrace of the triune God.

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Marriage Celebrated by Confessing the Holy Trinity

Marriage_in_Cana_Giotto

[Homily also available in Spanish:  click: II Dom 2016.]

According to St. Faustus of Riez, the wedding we read about at Sunday Mass symbolizes “the joyful marriage of man’s salvation, a marriage celebrated by confessing the Holy Trinity.”

I don’t want to wax pedantic here. But we ought to meditate a little bit on the most basic foundations of the Catholic and Christian faith. We read that “His disciples began to believe in Him.” We want to follow Christ as disciples, too. So what exactly does a Christian disciple believe?

Can anyone identify this line from a movie: “It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

Now, we do not believe in “the Force.” We believe in: God. The One, the only. Source and goal of all things. All-knowing, all-good, all-powerful. Everywhere, and greater than everything. Both more intimate and more transcendent than we can imagine. God. The Almighty.

Michelle Dockery Lady Mary DowntonWe believe in Him. We acknowledge that to deny His existence seems utterly irrational, considering things like sunsets, vast oceans, people as lovely as Michelle Dockery, not to mention the human soul. Only a fool denies the existence of God. But, by the same token, only a fool claims to know, to understand, to grasp God’s infinitely beautiful and spiritual mind.

When the disciples “began to believe” in Jesus, they did not begin to believe that He had a beard. They knew He had a beard. They did not begin to believe that He could attend weddings. They saw with their own eyes that He attended the wedding in Cana.

What they began to believe is: This man, Who turns water into fine wine, is God. He, Jesus, is The One in Whom believers believe. God made the heavens and the earth; He makes the mighty rivers flow. The disciples began to believe: Jesus of Nazareth is the One Who knit Michelle Dockery together in her mother’s womb!

Feel me? This is what we call faith in the Incarnation. We believe not just that God could become man, if He so chose–which of course is true, since God is God and nothing less than omnipotent God. But we believe not only that the Incarnation is theoretically possible; we believe that it has, in fact, happened. Therefore, we make a bigger fuss at Christmas than at anyone else’s birthday.

Okay, we done with the theology lesson? Not quite. St. Faustus did not say that the joyful marriage of man’s salvation involves confessing the Incarnation.

St. Faustus could have said that, but he didn’t. Because we begin by believing in the Incarnation. The Word became incarnate for a reason: to reveal the unfathomable secret of God.

When the Lord Jesus came up out of the Jordan water, as we heard about last week at Mass, He did not pat Himself on the head and declare with His own lips: “I am very pleased with myself.”

the_holy_trinityWhen He knelt to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not say, “Let this chalice pass from me. My own will be done.”

When He breathed His last on the cross, He did not groan and say, “Into my own hands I commend myself.”

No. When Jesus spoke, the One, eternal God spoke; the infinite and omnipotent spoke. The infinite and omnipotent Son prayed. He prayed to the infinite and omnipotent Father. God the Son has a father. God the Father has a Son.

And when God the Son finished the mission that God the Father had given Him to complete, God the Son sent the pure, glorious spirit of truth into the world. And that pure, omnipresent Spirit is God. But He is neither the Father, nor the Son, although He is, and can be nothing other than, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, anointed by the heavenly Father.

Trinity. The one and only God is tri-une. The disciples began to believe this. We have begun to believe this. And I say “begun” because we will not successfully finish believing in the Trinity until we actually gaze upon this mystery, totally unveiled before our eyes.

Believing in the Trinity is not confusing. This dogma of faith does not make a mess out of rational thinking. Just the opposite. Believing in the Father, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit of Pentecost offers the human race the only real path to a life that makes sense.

Our job is not to understand the mystery. Our job is to share in it. To live in communion with Jesus, loving and serving the Father. We profess our faith in words, to be sure, by reciting the Creed–words that we would rather die than deny. But the true profession of our faith is our lives. Lives lived–if I might dare to put it this way–lives lived “inside” the Trinity. By His life on earth, Jesus invited us inside the inner life of God. When we see, hear, react, think, judge, and act with Jesus, then we live in the embrace of the triune God.

Tuning Fork Within

You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. (Mark 1:11)


tuning fork

The heavens opened. The Holy Spirit descended. The Father spoke. The revelation of the Trinity.

God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three distinct divine P_______s. One perfectly simple divine n________. (Persons, nature)

The great mystery of the three in one, one in three: the communion beyond our comprehension. The goal of all our striving, namely to share in such an unimaginably blissful friendship between Father and Son, so full of love for each other that what is distinct is united more profoundly than we are united with our own selves.

But such abstractions as these can leave a person cold, at least sometimes.

Continue reading “Tuning Fork Within”

John-17 St.-Lucy-Day-Crown Candles

St Lucy crown

Father, I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:22)

I have given them the glory you gave me. The ‘them’ is us: we who believe in Christ.

The ‘I’ is Christ, true God and true man.

The ‘glory’ is the glory which God has given to the Christ. What is this?

From eternity unto eternity, the Father begets the divinity of the Son, the unlimited glory of God.

We, being limited creatures, cannot receive this glory. So He cannot mean this.

From the moment of His conception in the Virgin’s womb, the Christ received from God the fullness of grace, the human share in divinity: wisdom, knowledge, perfect love, indomitable fortitude—the full spiritual equipage of the holy man, the man perfectly united with the Creator and Governor of all.

From the moment of our Holy Baptism, Christ shares this grace with us. It grows in our souls through our pilgrim lives as we persevere in faith, do good, and avoid evil.

princeBefore dawn on Easter Sunday, the Christ received from God the permanent re-invigoration of His human body. This, too, we will receive–on the last day.

Why? Why has the Christ given us the glory that God gave Him?

So that we, His believers, may share the unity of the Father and Son. So that we may share the Holy Spirit.

Again, we cannot share this as God, because we are not God.

But we can share it as divine love poured into human hearts. As Christ’s Heart is, so can our hearts be: Moved altogether with love for the truly beautiful and truly good. Impervious to evil and death. Alive with the same life that made the whole world, keeps it made, and guides it to its fulfillment.

That the Father and Son are one in the Holy Spirit is the foundation of everything else. That foundational love that makes things exist—as opposed to not exist—that very love can be in our hearts now and forever. That very love–nothing less. The love that is the foundation of the earth, of the universe.

Prince, in his heyday; Prince rocking ‘When Doves Cry’ in 1984, would have nothing on us. Michael Jordan in his heyday; Jordan knocking down 69 points in one game would have nothing on us. F. Scott Fitzgerald, sitting down and writing The Great Gatsby like an ethereal poem of pathos, would have nothing on us. Alexander the Great, ruling from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas, would have nothing on us.

To be among those for whom the Lord prays in the words of John 17 is to be a burning candle in the St.-Lucy-Day crown of the world.

See the Chimney, Believe in the Trinity

Christ blessing Savior World el Greco

As the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. (John 5)

Today we feel faithful anticipation about the future. We pray that the Lord will give the universal Church a good new shepherd to unify us and govern us.

We do not yet know who our new pope will be. But one thing we know for sure: When he gives his first pontifical blessing from the loggia of St. Peter’s—when he extends his hand toward us, toward the entire world, with his first gesture of fatherly love—he will invoke the name of the Blessed Trinity. He will bless us in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.

It will do us some good, I think, during these days of fevered excitement about what’s happening in St. Peter’s Square, to focus on the central mysteries of our faith, the truths which we genuinely believe, in the full sense of the word.

The ritual of electing a new Sovereign Pontiff has so many aspects that are strange and arcane to the modern observer, one might be tempted to think that we Catholics ‘believe’ in smoke signals from the Sistine Chapel.

sistine-chimneyBut the stove and the chimney do not constitute mysteries of the holy Catholic faith.

The great mystery of our faith, the mystery of the Trinity, which the new pope will instantly declare and affirm when he blesses us, without giving it a second thought—the mystery of divine love:

That God the Father has a Son, eternally begotten before the ages, Who became man in the fullness of time; that the Father and the Son love each other with an eternal and infinite love, the divine Spirit, Whom the Son pours out upon us from heaven—we believe this.

We can explain the chimney and the smoke. Nothing genuinely mysterious there. Nothing really mysterious about the pope’s white cassock, or about the fact that he will start it all off by speaking Italian. Italy is a great place; Rome is a special city. But there’s nothing literally divine about it.

There is something literally divine, though, about Jesus Christ. There is something literally divine about the Holy Spirit Who sanctifies and gives endless life. And there is something indubitably divine about the heavenly Father Who Christ came to reveal to us.

We Catholics love our pope, above all, because he is the great guardian of the mystery of the Christian faith. Whoever the new pope turns out to be, he will be, first and foremost, a Christian among Christians, a man who believes, like we do, in the Trinity and in the Incarnation—that is, a man who believes in Jesus, and in His Father, and in His Spirit.

Via webcam, we can see the Sistine-Chapel chimney. We cannot see the triune glory of God. But Jesus taught us to believe in it. With the old pope and the new pope to come, with all the popes of the past and all the popes of the future: we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Hitting the Heresies, Part Two

What spiritual goal do we strive after for the next 2 ½ weeks?

Seems to me that we want to focus, as best we can, on the experiences of the heroes of the original Holy Week—primarily, of course, our Lord Himself.

To do this, we have to lay hold of the truth about the Person of Christ. Heresies only lead us away from what really happened in Jerusalem.

Last week someone mentioned the heresy that we could probably call the NCAA Champion of all heresies. The ancient error that made Christianity meaningless in the name of making it more respectable. Right: Arianism.

“The Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing.”

We have been baptized in the name of the Blessed Trinity. Our hope for eternal life rests on the divinity of the Son. When Jesus died on the cross, it was not simply a matter of unjust government crushing an innocent citizen—though it was that. It was not just a matter of the noblest man who ever lived dying peacefully for the highest imaginable ideals—though it was that, too. If it were only these things, then the death of Christ would be beautiful and admirable, but it could offer no enduring hope. His death would simply be the most painful of all the human tragedies that make up our history.

The Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing.

Arius regarded this statement as clear evidence that Jesus is not equal to the Father. But, with these words, the Lord does not indicate that at all.

We do not understand the mystery of the tri-unity of God. But we do know what the Son has revealed to us. The Father begets the Son by giving Him everything—the infinity of divinity. The Holy Spirit proceeds by the Son giving it back.

The Son does only what the Father does, but this does not make the Son any less divine, since what the divine Father does is: give everything to the Son.

The Trinity is not the Trinity because of us. The Trinity has been and always will be. We are what we are because the Trinity has willed it so.

Jesus died on the cross as the Son of God made man. By His obedient death, Christ gave to the Father the infinite divine love—as a man, on our behalf. From this single act of infinite love, all our hope springs. Any hope we had would be altogether shaky if it rested on any other foundation. But as it is, our hope is certain, because it rests on God.

Christ’s Baptism Sets a Three-Beat Rhythm

The vagaries of the calendar will deprive us this year of a Baptism of the Lord Sunday.

From the archive…

Click HERE for a Baptism of the Lord homily about the sacraments.

Click HERE for a Baptism of the Lord homily about joining God’s club.

Click HERE for a Baptism of the Lord homily about Tiger Woods.

[If you click the links, scroll down past the sports page to get to the homilies.]

…Here we present another little Roman Missal reflection:

The Lord Jesus came up from the water, and the Holy Trinity revealed Himself in full. The Father spoke, the Son stood before our eyes, the Holy Spirit descended as a dove.

One God, three Persons.

When St. Peter denied Christ on Holy Thursday night, he denied Him three times. When Christ forgave Peter on Easter, He asked the repentant sinner three times, “Do you love me.”

We join in the same three-beat rhythm now when we begin Mass.

Our new translation of the Confiteor expresses the three-fold acknowledgement of sin that the ancient Latin prayer has always included: “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”

We continue, as we always have, to implore the mercy of the Trinity in a three-fold manner. “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”

And, now, when we sing the Gloria, we express the threefold adoration of the Lamb that the ancient Latin prayer always has expressed:

you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.

Since we believe in one God in three Persons, it makes sense that our prayers to begin Mass would have a special three-beat rhythm in them.

We thank God that our new Missal restores some of the beats that were missing from the previous translation.

Vague vs. Consubstantial

The Lord proclaims to the people: “I am compassionate.”

How compassionate?

…In five weeks, we will start working the famous pew-cards with the revised translation of our Mass prayers. When we do, we will discover some different words in our beloved Nicene Creed.

The first question is: Why do we recite the Creed at Mass? Any thoughts?

Right. Because this is what we believe about God Almighty. We Catholics believe specific things.

Whenever I encounter someone who says something like “Who needs organized religion?” or “Don’t we all pray to the same god anyway?” or “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual,” I experience two simultaneous reactions.

1. Thank God, I intend first and foremost to sympathize, to extend a friendly hand, to put the best possible interpretation on the other person’s point of view. After all, God indeed does transcend all the words we use to focus our minds on Him.

2. Meanwhile, though, whenever I hear such vague shibboleths about religion, I cannot help but think to myself: “Gosh. Do you have a thought in your head? How can you be satisfied with nonsensical flim-flam about God? Shouldn’t you take yourself a little more seriously?”

Continue reading “Vague vs. Consubstantial”

Can We Deal with the Truth?

In his gospel book, St. John has narrated some conversations which the Lord Jesus had with scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem prior to His bitter Passion. These passages illuminate the tension and controversy that eventually led to Jesus’ arrest on Holy Thursday night and His summary execution on Good Friday.

The decisive moment came when the Lord answered the High Priest’s question about being the Son of God. On the level of the human drama, the unforgivable act which Christ committed was this: He bore witness to the truth about Himself.

John 8 puts us in the middle of one of the conversations which led up to the events of Holy Week. Perhaps we can consider this conversation as a debate about the basic identity of the people involved. In our own way, we are involved in this discussion, too.

Continue reading “Can We Deal with the Truth?”

little trinities

The other day, beads of sweat dripped from my elbow when I finished my morning run. The sheer joy of it moved me to compose this little rhapsody:

Come, long hot Washington summer!
Come and enfold your people in your torrid embrace.
We will take every sweaty minute of your grimy kiss.
We hardly know ourselves without your bleary fog surrounding us.
Come and wrap us in your dank blanket!

…Here is a Trinity Sunday homily for you:

Lord, what is man that you care for him? Mortal man, that you keep him in mind? Yet You have made him little less than a god. (Psalm Eight)

In Sacred Scripture, the Wisdom of God testifies that He brought about the making of all things with the Almighty Father:

When the Lord established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command; then was I beside him as his craftsman. (Proverbs 8:27-30)

This is the Word of God speaking, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. All three Persons of the Trinity brought about creation. Of all the works of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the greatest is man. Divine Wisdom says, “I found delight in the human race.” The Lord crowned the world by making us “with glory and honor, putting all things under our feet” (Psalm Eight).

Continue reading “little trinities”